Al-Marah Club: Treating children through fun [Archives:2006/1000/Reportage]

November 20 2006
Mother and children together at the Al-Marah Club.
Mother and children together at the Al-Marah Club.
Fatima Al-Ajel
[email protected]

In an effort to help manage children's medical treatments in conjunction with fun and games, Saba'een Hospital has opened Al-Marah Club.

Observing sick children's inadequate conditions at Saba'een Hospital, a visiting French group arranged with hospital administration to dedicate a room exclusively for a club. Opening under the banner, “Remedies for Enjoyment,” the club is geared for pediatric patients to be in an entertaining and relaxing atmosphere.

Nurse Bushra Al-Masari is in charge of the club and the children who attend it, having taken various French-sponsored courses on how to deal with sick children. Nagat Abdo, managing supervisor for the French Link Organization in Yemen, selected her to be responsible for Al-Marah.

Since its opening, the club's method is to supply toys and videos to help patients under age 12 take their medication. No more than 10 children are part of the club at any given time, but this also limits space given to the club for its activities, thus preventing more children from joining.

“My hope is for the club to have larger accommodations so a larger group of children can participate,” Al-Masari comments, “It's such a pleasure to see the children out of their hospital beds and not thinking about their illness as they busy themselves with the different toys we have available, especially those who previously were deprived of such entertainments.”

She continues, “I especially remember 12-year-old Hanadi, who joined the club during her hospital stay. After spending a month with us, she refused to leave the hospital once she recuperated because she didn't want to leave the club or the favorite toy she had played with. However, I emphasized that she could visit us anytime she wanted.”

During a two-hour club visit, children are involved in a variety of activities: painting, playing in groups, watching TV or listening to music and Islamic songs. Three-year-old Abdulmalik Ali Nahi joined the club with his mother's permission, who commented that she liked the idea of the club, “I spent 10 days in the hospital with my son, but it didn't feel like a hospital.”

Six-month-old Mohammed Qalain visited Al-Marah with his mother, Um Mohammed, who said, “My son has been ill for four days and every morning, I dedicate an hour at the club for him. I appreciate the organization supporting it.”

Every child who joins Al-Marah is given a membership card allowing him or her to visit the club even after their discharge from the hospital. More than 40 children have joined since the club's opening. Its main event is a large monthly party, wherein French members from the Link Organization are invited to spend time with the children.

Link currently faces various organizational issues, one of which is structuring the club's activities. While most activities are for entertainment, the organization also provides many handcraft type of games aimed at teaching children new skills. Unfortunately, Al-Masari states, “I observe that the children are more interested in playing freely, so I sometimes find it difficult getting them to use those particular games.”

Generally, every new project has its own aims and future plans for success. Al-Marah plans to open other branches in hospitals throughout Yemen and hold a lecture series for club members' mothers to teach them how to deal with their children's illnesses. The objective is to increase mothers' health care awareness by inviting specialists to talk and explain a variety of subjects, as well as distributing cassettes and DVDs on health care.